RTE’s Coverage of Church and Faith Matters

One of the outstanding achievements of the ACP to date was in challenging RTE in relation to its  defamation of Fr. Kevin Reynolds.

Can I suggest, through the ACP website, that it is now time to challenge RTE again; this time in relation to their coverage of the World Meeting of Families that included the visit of Pope Francis.

So many parishioners are disturbed and angry about it and ask if ‘there is nothing we can do about it?’

One of my friends has begun a one-man campaign by refusing to pay his TV licence. When one reflects on the power of withholding rents, charges, etc., and the power of boycott, from our history one would have to say that he has a valid point. Imagine if enough people had the guts to join him.

People are quite clear about a host of instances of bias and misrepresentation in the RTE presentation of this event. I list just a few; perhaps other people can add their own:

  • The amount of items broadcast, most of them from archives and well dated, that had a damaging effect on the church in general, and priests in particular, in the weeks leading up to the Meeting.
  • The extent researchers went to on chat-line programmes to locate people, including priests, who are well known to wield a permanent axe against the church.
  • The manner in which Pope Francis was portrayed. Zero credit given for his wonderful work as priest and bishop among the poorest people of the world, and now as Pope reforming the church very much in style promoted by ACP in its years of existence.
  • The failure to give almost any serious coverage to the meeting in the RDS last week. 
‘Where’, people ask, ‘was the correspondent for Social and Religious Affairs?’  This was a hugely important event on the world stage; RTE did not think so.
  • The imbalance of panels on discussion programmes.

As I said the list can go on. I hope we will be alerted to all of them by further reaction to this letter on your website.

On a final point concerning imbalance on panels; for me the ultimate insult was the inclusion of a  comedian on the analysis of that wonderful Croke Park experience on Saturday night.

As church, as people, we are all seen as Fr. Teds; good to laugh at, and don’t forget that in RTE parlance the words priest and paedophile, cleric and abuse always go hand in hand.

Are we priests happy to see our profession, vocation, however we name what we do, ridiculed day after day and say nothing about it?

Our silence is deafening and dangerous.

I hope these few lines are seen as some attempt to redress the imbalance and keep some kind of flag flying for a team several goals down and struggling.

Finian Connaughton

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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    I think RTÉ’s courtesy to the papal guest in not broadcasting Viganò’s malicious screed until the guest had departed suggests that RTÉ has a church-friendly side, which should be welcome just now.

  2. Sean Coyle says:

    The coverage of the Pope’s visit on RTÉ was comprehensive and excellent. But in news reports and talk shows the focus was on an issue that is indeed a significant part but not the whole of the reality of the recent history of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Both the State and the Catholic Church have worked to try to ensure that the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults will be very unlikely to happen again. Who would have thought a few years ago that a priest would need a Garda clearance in order to celebrate Mass in public? Adults involved in any way with minors and vulnerable adults all need such a clearance now. Priests have served time in prison and have been defrocked. It’s not as if nothing has been done by the State or the Church.

    I didn’t hear any discussion, in the context of the World Meeting of Families, on the widespread abuse of children within families, where this is far more common than in any other situation.

    And one wonders too why RTÉ apparently put an embargo on the Viganó Testimony that was major news everywhere else in the world on the second day of the Pope’s visit.

    Thank you, Finian.

  3. Sean McDonagh says:

    I agree with Finian Connaughton’s article that much of the media coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland and the World Meeting of Families 2018, was biased.

    A group of us meet under the umbrella of ‘Our Common Home Project; World Meeting of Families’ to link care for our common with the family. We took as our guide No 277 of Amoris Latetitia which states that “it is in the family too, we can rethink our habits of consumption and join in caring for the environment as our common home.”

    The aim of this group was to invite every participant to under go eco-conversion at the event; to break open Laudato Si’ to a Global Church audience, and to showcase Laudato Si’ as a vehicle to “enter int dialogue” with all people who are “united by the same concern” (Ls, 7).

    Each participant received a ‘leave not trace’ video encouraging them the make the pilgrimage as sustainable as possible. Did any journalist comment the difference, rubbish wise, between the Phoenix Park after the Papal Mass and Electric Picnic after that event?

    There were also presentations on climate change and biodiversity.
    The booklet Faith Communities: Action to help pollinators was launched at the World Meeting of Families by Dr. FitzPatrick for the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford and the Columban Ecological Institute provided funding for the printing of the booklet.
    There was also a contemplative garden space on Simmons Court Road in the Poor Clare’s Convent where people came to sit quietly and explore care for creation. There was much more too, but none of these events received adequate coverage by the media.

    I sent an article to The Irish Times, but it was not published. I believe that religious news is not getting a fair hearing in the Irish media today. In fact, some of the coverage showed little understanding of the role of religion for believers and for society.

  4. Margaret Hickey says:

    RTE had John Kelly as commentator for Festival of Families.I can think of other RTE female broadcasters who would have engaged better with a major faith event. Imagine having John Kelly covering a major sports event or political event? It showed scant respect for the many thousands who tuned in expecting informed comment. Not adulation just well briefed, well informed comment.
    The 130k estimate of attendance was as pointed out wildly underpitched.
    The Phoenix Park homily was a small masterpiece of its genre but the commentators did not transmit any of it, preferring to focus on one issue and one only. Not bias?
    Yes the scandals are there but they are not the story of the Church or of Pope Francis or of the message he brought to this WMOF18.

  5. Frances Burke says:

    Maureen. I didn’t watch any of the coverage on TV as I’m not an RTE viewer. However, I totally agree with the rest of your points.

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    Maureen, I wasn’t at home during Francis’ visit so I am unable to give an informed opinion, though what I read on the RTE website and on the website of our newspapers, and in my paper copy of the Sunday Independent, seemed very fair and balanced. But everything else you say I completely agree with and very well said too, Maureen. Isn’t it absolutely baffling that we still have to make this point that the time is long since past for false victimhood, denial, moaning about the media, etc, etc though I have to say I find those who would still resort to that are now few and far between. And, I agree, we all must accept responsible for the difficult task of purifying our institutional church. But, the first important step is an honest acknowledgement that there is urgent need for purification

  7. Maureen Mulvaney says:

    I disagree with the main thrust in the recent post by Finian Connaughton. I watched & listened to extensive coverage by RTÉ during the week of the Papal Visit. I thought it was fair, balanced, and excellent. I include the following link from the Irish Catholic dated August 30, 2018, entitled “RTÉ excels at covering a very special visit”: https://www.irishcatholic.com/rte-excels-at-covering-a-very-special-visit/.

    It seems to me that there are still many unable to acknowledge the abuse and other problems within the Catholic Church. Instead, they resort to false victim mode and state that the media etc. are bashing the Church. Pope Francis, Catholic reformers and survivors are saying “No” to abuse and “No” to clericalism.

    If you want an example of glaring imbalance, you only had to look at the altar at the Phoenix Park with a sea of all male clerics presiding, while women are still excluded from leadership, governance, and ministry.

    Should RTÉ have not talked about the bombshell of the Pennsylvania report, or do some people claim that that was fake news? Some Catholics still minimise the abuse catastrophe. They even think that survivors should now be silent and not talk about the pain and injustice.

    I should like to think that we are honest people and that together we can face up to this growing crisis. There has been a clerical imbalance for too long and there is a massive need for reform. This is where we should concentrate our energies to end this imbalance between women and men.

    It is (all) our responsibility at this time to work together with groups working for reform that will bring about a healthy balance in our Church. It is when we acknowledge the problems and face up to them and take action, it is only then change will happen.

  8. mike cussen says:

    My first effort went too quickly anyway i needed to thank finian for highlighting a reaction i too find with many pariahioners…disturbed and angry at what they see as a very biased presentation by RTE of our catholic faith family….Good news is no news…bad or sad news seems to be presented with energy and glee….by naming this finian has at least given us the support in one another Thanks.

  9. Brain Deane says:

    Well said Finian! A practical suggestion for anyone wishing to register a protest with this same organisation which you are required by law to fund to the tune of €160 per year. When your next TV licence renewal notice comes – whether you choose to pay it or not – send a copy along with a simple letter of protest regarding the RTE organisation anti-Catholic bias. I suggest you send both to: Ms. Dee Forbes, Director General, RTE, Donnybrook, D4. Irish people are entitled to a fair and balanced public broadcasting service especially when they pay a licence fee.

  10. mike cussen says:

    Thank you Finian.

  11. Tim Hazelwood says:

    At a recent press conference where Jose Mourinho was facing intense questioning from a very critical media who speculated about his future ….(after 3 games)…the enigmatic coach quoted the German philosopher Hegel…”the truth is in the whole” referring to his successes in the past.
    The same could be applied in this debate. A few reflections.

    1. It was inevitable there would be a big reaction to the Pope’s visit from the many who had suffered abuse and from those angry with the Church. Watching the Church triumphant as they carried the scars of the past was like a red rag to a bull. Truth as I see it.

    2. The coverage of the visit by RTE during the two day’s was outstanding….even though we might not have liked some of the commentators or what they were saying. Truth.

    3. The ACP has in the past and continues today to support priests. In a very public case it involved RTE. In most other situation it involves civil authorities and in nearly all religious congregations and diocese where the civil and canonical rights of the individual are not fully upheld and where where support for the individual and basic Christian charity is sadly lacking. Truth.

    Jose Mourinho has begun a war of words with the British media.
    Who do you think is going to win that one ? Not Jose I fear…

  12. Iggy O Donovan says:

    It is true that in general BBC have a more balanced and thoughtful approach to matters religious than RTE. Take for instance the Sunday Programme on Radio 4 which is generally excellent.
    As for the Papal visit. My only involvement with RTE was at Knock where I had a minor part in a Morning Ireland special along with a local PP Stephen Farragher. On that occasion I found the programme organisers to be pretty balanced. They had hold of but did not use the Vigano letter which was clearly designed to derail the Francis visit.

  13. Cyril Lovett says:

    Well done, Finian, I want to echo your criticism of RTE’s coverage of Pope Francis’s visit. By contrast, a Scottish friend of mine was surprised at BBC’s ample coverage of the visit and its more balanced tone. Even in the coverage of the Phoenix Park Mass, there was constant comment on how few people were there; in the papers the following day, the figure of 130,000 was quoted and this estimate was credited to a member of the medical assistance team! nobody thought to check how many communions were distributed (in fact 200,000).

  14. Michael P. O'Sullivan says:

    Thanks Father for a short article and for hitting the nail on the head. In no other country in Europe are priests the subject on so much guile as in the Irish media, particularly RTE. Even on Joe Duffy’s lifeline, which is normally quite balanced, most of the coverage on the Pope’s visit was dedicated to priests and paedophilia … abuse and cover up. In the almost total silence of the hierarchy and the craw-thumping of the Archbishop of Dublin there is no one either to defend the thousands of priests whom serve their communities faithfully every days except the Iona Institute ….

    Come on the ACP and start defending your brothers and the the Church. Well done Finian for stating this timely debate.

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